Two important issues are emerging in the 2015 Nebraska Legislature - corrections reform, necessary because of severe overcrowding in the state’s prisons, and LB 472, the Medicaid Redesign Act, which would reform the state’s Medicaid program and offer healthcare coverage to approximately 54,000 modest-income, working Nebraskans.
We believe LB 472 can also help address needed corrections reform. The Center for Rural Affairs and Nebraska Appleseed recently released LB 472 and Leveraging Federal Dollars to Reform Corrections, a report exploring how a redesigned Medicaid program could help address corrections policy, and how public safety and Nebraska taxpayers could benefit.
Our research clearly demonstrates that the lack of mental health and substance abuse treatment are primary causes of reoffending by those released from incarceration. Nebraska has developed treatment programs, but not ways that this predominantly uninsured, low-income population can afford them.
LB 472 is the path for covering necessary treatment. Experiences in other states show that reoffending and costs are reduced, while public safety is enhanced by providing healthcare coverage for those treatments. Our report shows that LB 472 would help keep nearly 400 people from returning to prison annually, saving the Department of Corrections $11 million annually. That’s potentially 400 fewer crime victims and fewer tax dollars going to an expensive corrections system. Savings to counties for local jails would be on top of those savings.
Obviously, LB 472 will not solve every issue facing Nebraska’s correctional system, but it is a contribution, with multiple benefits to Nebraska taxpayers.
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